No-frills VoIP project slashes costs . . .

FRAMINGHAM (11/07/2003) - No-frills VoIP project slashes costs . . . . . . at bottom-line-bleeding Agilent Technologies Inc. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of scientific and engineering test equipment has been hemorrhaging cash since the 2001 downturn of the once-hot telecom market. Word inside the $6 billion company is to cut costs everywhere. For a global company with major operations centers in North America, Europe and Asia, a good place to start was the phone bill, says Pete Kimball, a voice network engineer at Agilent. Unlike an angry parent who yanks a phone out of a teenager's room after seeing the costs rung up by the yakking kid, Agilent's engineers did what engineers do. They conducted a study. Their first discovery, not surprisingly, was that virtually all long-distance intracompany calls took place in locations where IP networks were running. The second discovery was that up to 75 percent of the company's phone conversations were internal conference calls. Those two facts lit up bright-idea bulbs over lots of heads, and the company swung into action in September to add voice-over-IP gateways to private branch exchanges in eight of its nine global centers. The first phase of the deployment will be completed this month. "We've done nothing extraordinary," says Kimball. "It's a straightforward design." Maybe. But the amount of money saved is extraordinary. Agilent will pocket about US$1 million in savings in the first year, hitting ROI in about the same time. The second phase of the VoIP project, which attacks voice over frame-relay operations in places like China and India, will also be rolled out this year, delivering even more savings.

Agilent's choice for VoIP technology was Latitude Communications Inc. Users like the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's MeetingPlace software, which is designed to let them have live, interactive online meetings synchronized with VoIP and use tools like instant messaging and PowerPoint during meetings. Latitude's iCreate 2.0 turns PowerPoint into Flash demos for zippy performance online. Latitude is so enamored with Flash that it will replace its current Java Web conferencing engine with Flash sometime in mid-2004. By the end of this quarter, Latitude will give managers a detailed audit trail for IM usage, which is of particular interest to those needing to comply with SEC, HIPAA and other data retention and control regulations.

Accessing DB2 tables on your mainframe can make certain operations a bit pokey. The folks at Data Kinetics Ltd. in Ottawa claim that tableBase Version 6, which ships today, can perform database table reads for DB2 on z/OS and OS/390 hosts faster than if you put all of DB2 in cache. What's more, with the new release, you can share IMS and DB2 tables on a single system and write to the tables. The upgrade also lets DB2-stored procedures make calls to tableBase, which cuts down on mainframe I/O operations and increases performance. Pricing is MIPS-based.

Data integrity is paramount to virtually any database's credibility. That's why database administrators are very particular about who can read and, especially, write data to their prized workhorse. Not so at Gracenote Inc. Emeryville, Calif.-based Gracenote supplies the information about songs accessed by users of Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes music service. When you download your favorite Coldplay hit or Wagnerian aria or load a music CD on your PC, the data connected to the song has most likely been provided by users like you. According to Chief Technology Officer Ty Roberts, Gracenote has hit upon an intriguing scheme that lets any user classify music, for example, by genre in a democratic fashion. "Users fill out data on the tracks, and we buffer it on our servers," he explains. Music companies don't provide the information. Once multiple people confirm, say, that "Okie Dokie Stomp" by Hollywood Fats Band is blues and not rock, Gracenote publishes it to the world. This approach has implications for database administrators who may have fields with subjective information in them. Instead of choosing for your users, let them vote. Democratize the database! A catchy slogan for 2004, no?

Path Patterns

Ipsum Networks Inc. in Philadelphia tomorrow releases Version 2.2 of its Route Dynamics software for its IP management appliances. With the upgrade, you can tie applications and services to specific routing paths for ideal performance and get alerts when those preferred baseline paths are bypassed. Pricing is based on the number of Layer 3 devices on your network.

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